Oh, certainly, technical education would have come to this region, but Culberson jump started it in the late 1940s, giving the concept a good 15-year head start in Greater Rome. Culberson, a World War II veteran, worked to attract funding to provide vocational skills training for servicemen who were re-acclimating to the community after World War II and the Korean War.
If Greater Rome has continued as a manufacturing center, if new high-tech jobs continue to thrive in our community and if a deep understanding and appreciation of the worth of technical education still abides, we can thank Maurice Culberson.
“He lived and breathed vocational education,” said Georgia Northwestern Technical College President Craig McDaniel, and is considered by many to be the “father of vocational education” in Greater Rome.
CULBERSON TAUGHT and coached in the Rome and Floyd County school systems, and, as director of Rome Vocational School, he assisted in planning and developing Coosa Valley Tech in 1962 and was the first director the Rome-based technical college now known as Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) with campuses in Rome, Calhoun, Rockmart, Rock Spring and Dalton and an Aviation Training Center at Rome’s Richard B. Russell Airport.
The regional scope of today’s GNTC is built on the foundation that Culberson laid down in the 1940s and 1950s. The Rome Vocational School was supported by the Rome City Schools, Floyd County Schools and the Chamber of Commerce, but when the college was created 50 years ago, Culberson was credited for building the case for a separate technical college, McDaniel said. While many things in the technical education field have changed, the fundamental function and purpose of GNTC remains much as Culberson first determined.
Culberson’s knowledge and interest in the field put him in the forefront of vocational education in the southern United States, and he served on the technical committee of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Executive Committee of the Georgia Vocational Education Association.
He also displayed a genius for organization and motivation that played to his advantage when this community decided to create Coosa Valley Tech in 1962, said McDaniel. “He brought in all of the movers and shakers from Floyd County. He had Georgia Power and people from law firms and the health care community,” McDaniel said. “He understood vocational education about as well as anybody.”
CULBERSON SERVED as the first administrator of the college until 1969 when the late J. Derward Powell succeeded him. Culberson moved on to a position with Floyd County Schools until his retirement.
“When [Coosa Valley Tech] was founded, and money was made available, it was to meet the changing needs of businesses and industry,” McDaniel said. “The demands of business and industry required people who could work in a more mechanical or automated environment. Of course, that’s what we’re being faced with now with all of the robots and the industrial systems that have become so computer driven.”
Culberson was also a member of the first family of sports in the Shannon community. One of five Culberson brothers, he was a star athlete at Model, then Darlington. He set the state record in the 440-yard dash in 1934, completing a turn around the track in 53.8 seconds. Culberson then took his talents in football and track to the University of Chattanooga. He was also a star baseball player in the Northwest Georgia Textile League and was a member of the Northwest Georgia Football Officials Association for 20 years.
Perhaps growing up in a textile mill environment gave Culberson his vision of the need for training and retraining workers for jobs in a constantly changing industry. Perhaps his service in the U.S. Army in the Pacific Theatre during World War II gave him the empathy to keep the needs of other veterans on his radar. Perhaps growing up in a family of 10 gave him the organizational skills needed to create a new school and oversee its growth.
NO MATTER what the reason, it is fitting to recall Maurice Culberson’s contributions to vocational-technical education in Greater Rome and all of Northwest Georgia. It is even more fitting that when students apply for admission to GNTC today, they send their applications to 1 Maurice Culberson Drive, Rome, Georgia.